Written by Akintobi Usman
A Closer Look at Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
“Mr. Anderson, why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?”
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
“Can we make them know that they deserve more?”
“We can try.”
The above dialogue was between Charlie (Logan Lerman) and his friend-cum-teacher, Bill Anderson (Paul Rudd), in the Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Perks of Being a Wallflower is a 2012 romance-drama movie adaptation from Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel of the same title. Chbosky dramatically helped transfer the emotions in the book through Charlie’s eyes, shuffling between past and present for our viewing pleasure. In this coming-of-age movie, we experience a tragic summer, an uptight family, a journal, a history of abuse, dating complications, and acid trips.
Charlie found it strange that his sister (Nina Dobrev) stayed with her boyfriend that hit her and still claimed to love him regardless. This lesson was important for Charlie because it made him realize things he couldn’t wrap his head around as the movie progressed. This all boils down to the simple truth that our individual experiences help shape our perception of certain life occurrences.
Charlie’s ordeal underlines what most teenagers, especially the nominal nonconformist, experience. He finds a tribe, then an identity. Even though the misery of adolescence may differ for everybody, the movie encompasses what everyone has faced or will face at some point in their lives.
My Personal Experience
Personally, I have these constant unrealistic expectations for myself. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if I had Michael B. Jordan’s smile, Idris Elba’s swag, and countless other superficial features that don’t even matter. Looking super cool was my master plan towards perfection and I was miles behind its execution.
I believed that I just didn’t have what it took. It’s probably why I stayed in relationships that I had no business being. The absence of these qualities made me feel incomplete somehow. I allowed the feelings of self-doubt to creep into the chambers of my mind. It doesn’t end there.
Thoughts like that naturally lead me to think that the person I’m with must be dumb not to realize that I’m not the perfect amount of cool. I accept the love I think I deserve unconditionally, even if it is toxic and hurts like hell.
It happens not because the acceptance brings me satisfaction, not even close. I think it happens primarily because of the fear of neglect and rejection. It happens because I can’t accept what I can’t recognize in myself.
We find ways to rationalize getting hurt. We justify pain and bottle up all the negative emotions. We think not addressing it will make it somehow go away and we’ll end up being happy.
I’ve learned that finding happiness that way is pretty much relative to finding a needle in a haystack. Not because you’re not worthy of joy. But because the love you accept is a reflection of the type of love you project unto yourself.
The Love That We Deserve
You have to understand that lowering your standards to accommodate love is nothing but a disaster. A time bomb ticking gently—waiting for you to diffuse it with your actions—if only you’re not busy making those silly comparisons.
Some people even think it is corny to talk about love. They’d rather discuss anything else but the winged guy with arrows. We all know it is a sensitive subject, but embracing being vulnerable is a must if we want purpose and clarity for our lives.
Love, what is love? I think love is a double-edged sword. A blessing. A curse. Love is messy, selfish, and reckless. Sometimes it is everything. And like Maya Angelou rightly said; “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
The Role of Friends
Eventually, Charlie’s perception of love took on a new meaning as he helped his sister out by reporting her bully boyfriend. With the help of his friends, he came to understand the dynamics of a healthy relationship. Charlie discovered how deserving of love he is, and how much he is capable of its reciprocation.
Although I’m still learning to find more ways to love myself. I’ve come to realize that I’m worthy of guiltless affection. The self-awareness is enough to keep me going. You also deserve more love than you think. Even though you don’t have your MVP’s best qualities, it is okay. Not only are you amazing in your way, but you are also the right amount of cool.
Taking a closer look at Charlie’s relationship with Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), the sexual steamroller, Punk, and Buddhist. Their friends encouraged the relationship even though Charlie was never really attracted to her. This highlights the role of friends when they convince us to get into relationships we should not be in, in the name of happiness and ‘the experience.’ The downside was that Mary Elizabeth already regarded herself as Charlie’s girlfriend, which made it very hard for him to end the relationship. He eventually put a stop to it in the wrong way at the expense of the relationship with his friends. In the end, he learned what it means to really follow one’s heart. So, could we say that “accepting the love we think we deserve” is part of the learning process on the road to fulfillment?
And because it is the season of love, you deserve to go out there and find the love that’ll compliment your awesomeness. Life is worth living and you have to do whatever it takes to make yourself feel alive. Like Charlie said, maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Whoever you are, you deserve so much more than you think.